There is a 20% chance of being pooped at by a bird.
Unfortunately, the odds of being smacked by mediocre content are higher.
Even though we are humans and should have better control over the content we write. Still, unnecessary words in writing are generously used.
Redundant words, filler content, and advice that beats about the bush fail to catch readers’ attention. So, a key ingredient of engaging content is bloat-free writing that results in a sharp piece.
Here are some tips that can help you avoid fluff in writing:
1. Have a plan – Write first, edit later
Having a plan is as important as having a backbone. You don’t want your writing to be all over the place, leaving you with achy fingers.
Start with an outline of what you want to write so that your thoughts know a boundary on paper. Edit, later on, not on the page as it can hamper the words from flowing freely.
2. Sharpen your introduction
A write-up without opening and closing thoughts is akin to an exercise session without a warm up and cool down. Not recommended.
But you don’t want to be developing the start for so long that your reader either bounces away from the post or skips straight to the meat of things.
Therefore, tighten up the introduction. Cut out filler words and jump straight to the point with a little bit of background.
Or dive straight into the point if the topic allows just as Buzzfeed does in this example:
3. Write short sentences
Short sentences add authority to your writing. Plus, they make your content easy to read. This may need some rewriting, but as you chop useless filler words, your sentences will tighten up. I had to write the opening line of this post multiple times before the sentence got a crisp bite to it:
4. Trim paragraphs
As you shorten your sentences, the paragraphs will distil to their value-packed versions. Try not to write a paragraph that is longer than 3-4 sentences.
Keep this golden tip by William Struck in mind while you eliminate fat from your write-up:
“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
5. Don’t state the obvious
Stating the obvious will only earn a “well duh” response, which is, frankly, not good.
For instance, an article on Christmas that opens with, “Christmas is enjoyed by several people in different parts of the world” deserves a “well duh” response. It is a clear example of fluff.
Keep Ann Handley‘s advice in your mind,
“Assume the reader knows nothing. But don’t assume the reader is stupid.”
6. Use expressive verbs
Verbs come in two classes – weak ones and sharp ones. It’s best to ditch the weak ones in favor of sharp verbs to add the much-needed crunch to your writing. Expressive words also tighten up your sentences, helping eliminate unnecessary fluff and filler.
Here are some punchier versions to weakling verbs:
7. Abandon adverbs where possible
Adverbs make a vain attempt at making verbs crisp. By choosing sharp verbs though, you can easily get rid of adverbs. To recap, adverbs are the crutches that words use. You may recognize them as words that end with ‘ly.’
For instance, ‘we should avoid fluff in writing religiously’ can become ‘we should avoid fluff in writing.’ Simple.
8. Favor active voice over passive voice
Another tip to debloat content is using active voice over passive.
Going back to grammar class, a subject does something in active voice but the subject is acted up in passive voice. Hence:
Here’s another example:
Note that the sentence is more concise in its active voice version as compared to passive voice. It uses fewer words and is easy to read as well.
9. Be specific
Another tip to avoid fluff in writing relates to being specific in your writing. This also helps strengthen your description game. Here’s an idea:
- I picked lots of handbags in the sale on my favorite brand last month
- I picked 3 handbags in the sale on Accessorize last month
The second one sounds better, doesn’t it?
10. Choose simple words
Simple words take up little space and come across as clear, helping remove the clog from your writing. So, instead of ‘utilize’, go for ‘use’. Similarly, favor ‘near’ instead of ‘proximity,’ and so on. Grammarly can help you with this. It often suggests that you replace long words with simple ones.
11. Don’t rant
Ranting is the recipe for fluff in writing. Besides, it bores the reader who consumes content only if it solves his problems and is packed with statistics to support the claims made. Your opinions matter but only sparingly. So, it’s best not to ramble.
12. Chop redundant words
Repeat words are filler words. So, you need to cut out redundant words. Did you note the redundancy there? Here’s condensed version: so you need to cut redundant words.
Check this list of common redundancies by Thought.co and start snipping.
13. Edit out fluff words
Equally important to removing redundant words is erasing filler words in writing. Try cutting the following worthless words from your writing:
- That, really, and just
- Actually, basically, and absolutely
- Stuff and things
- Kind of and sort of
- Completely and entirely
14. Tighten bullet points
Lastly, cut wordiness from bullet points. These are great for making your content easy to read. However, keep them short to make them readable. Therefore, rewrite them if you have to and present short and sweet bullet points that are fluff-free.
Over to you, how do you cut the fluff and filler from your writing?
Not sure how to create authoritative, clear, crisp and easy-to-understand content? Let’s chat and see if I can help you.